Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A piebald Christmas

Our corner of Vermont, like everywhere else, has been riding the weather rollercoaster in recent years, and especially the past two weeks. Here we have a winter theme rather than fire or typhoon.

A week ago Saturday morning, when I went to the dump (excuse me: “transfer station”), it was a balmy 6 degrees. The next night, we got a 15-inch dump of powder snow, onto which was added another 3-4 inches in as many days.

But by the next Saturday morning, my trip to the dump was 40 degrees warmer! And the next day brought the start of rains and unbroken above-freezing temps. (One exception: a morning of light glaze, which was gone by noon.)

Thus, by Christmas eve, a foot and a half of snow had vanished, leaving a landscape of white-splotched gray, brown, black, and mustard, even some spots of green. For days the yard was mucky down to the frost line, until yesterday it froze solid again. The whole reminded me of March.

It’s one thing to lose the snow cover in a week of sunshine and spring-approaching temperatures; quite another to lose it in the darkest week of the year, with calendar winter just beginning.

This was bad news for folks who depend on winter business for their livelihoods: ski areas, snowmobile services, plow operators. It’s good news for the low-budget towns who don’t have to clear and sand. Good news, too, for citizens like us who have to haul firewood across the yard and drive up and down angled driveways, and citizens unlike us who have to commute to work.

The forecast for the holiday was a high of 11, low of -1, and no precipitation for several days. Well, that’s good, I thought sadly, looking at the frigid, piebald landscape; at least people will be able to get around.

Then this morning I woke up to a flawless white vista. Some passing cloud overnight had brought a dusting—light enough for us to sweep off the walkways but heavy enough to coat the world. A white Christmas!

Better yet: Clear skies allowed sunrise almost an hour earlier than all week, with the moon still high in the west. Calm winds, temps several degrees above zero instead of below. Oh, what a wonderful gift!

Thank you, Santa! And happy holidays to all.